Archive for March, 2016

To Hire or Not to Hire: The Online Degree Dilemma

 Online degree diploma

By Kip Harrell 

The solution for winning the Talent War is not only about hiring and retaining the right people with the right skills, it’s also about finding and uncovering more sources for these people.  As is the case for many problems these days, this one is being solved partly due to technology.

One of technology’s great gifts is that education has been brought to more people in more places at a rapid pace. Online education and distance learning have lowered the costs and globally extended educational opportunity access to millions of people.  The end result – more educated candidates and potential workers available in the talent pool.  Because of the talent war, these candidates can’t be ignored forever.

The Expansion of Online Education

Students have chosen the distance learning route for many reasons.  Trying to juggle a career and a family are daunting.  The opportunity cost to stop work and complete an education or secure an advanced degree is huge.  A great school could be in another state or another country and a potential student’s obligations and location are simply not convenient for them to take advantage of a quality, campus-based program.

Many academics and professionals will continue to turn their noses up at the thought of hiring someone who has completed an online education.  There are commonly heard arguments against online education: not enough academic rigor, not enough student face time with peers and faculty, an increased risk for plagiarism and dishonesty, and limited ability to network.

Those in favor of online and distance learning as a delivery option will tell you that the quality of programs are increasing, that academic rigor is intensifying and that high admission standards and accreditation are quickly enhancing the value of many online degrees.  Combine these factors with technology to solve a lack of face-time with peers and professors, orientation and immersion weeks at the beginning and during a program, and facilitated team-based projects.  The result can and does mitigate the arguments against distance learning delivery.

Of course, there are those who just don’t care about where or how a degree was earned.  “I hire skills and not the degree” is a classic refrain.

Examining Online Degrees

Regardless of what your perspective is, online and distance learning programs are not without their problems.  Hundreds of for-profit companies are flooding the market with far less than legitimate offerings.  I have seen ‘state licensed’ included in some of the ads for online education.  A ‘state-licensed’ quasi-college can be a sign-me-up attraction for those not in the know about education accreditation.  Joe’s Printing and Mary’s Florist Shop are also state-licensed businesses, however it does not mean that they are qualified to offer an accredited college degree. Buyer beware.

As a talent acquisition or hiring manager, you must be absolutely confident in your hiring decisions.  To hire people with online degrees, you have to complete your homework, pun intended.  A real challenge is how do you determine if a candidate with an online degree is academically prepared for the role?  For one, research.  Check that the institution is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the US Department of Education (USDE) or if it is a business degree, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Second, ask about the program.  Does it closely mirror a full-time, campus-based degree at the same school?  What opportunities do participants have to engage and network with peers and faculty? Do students participate in collaborative projects or teams?  A good rule of thumb is if the full-time, campus-based program is highly rated, then chances are the online or distance learning degree will be rated high.

Finding the Right Fit

Don’t reject a candidate with an online or distance-learning-delivered degree without a good reason.  Treat them as you would a candidate who graduated from a full-time program.  Ask the online degree applicants similar questions about experience and skills to do the job.  But also ask about their soft and presentation skills, where they had opportunities to collaborate and work in teams, and how they obtained the experiences that mirror those candidates holding degrees from a campus-based educational institution.

Acceptance of online degrees is growing.  And although it may be little bit longer before professional services firms start paying attention to candidates with online degrees, at least a third of the top 100 MBA schools offer an online degree with more on the way.  If you fail to consider online degree candidates as part of the solution as the talent war heats up, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.  And if you and your company are coming up with a shallow talent pool, maybe it’s time to start filling it with candidates from online and distance learning programs, too.

Turn Candidate Interviews into a Valuable Marketing Tool

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

By: Bess Cadwell and Jacque Linaman for Construction Today

The construction industry has changed a lot since 2008, as have the job shortages and talent abundance that gave companies the upper-hand during the downturn.

Experienced professionals are in high demand, but finding those employees is not the only challenge. The interview process is a bigger opportunity and risk than most people realize. The candidate across the table from you could be your future director of preconstruction, or your future vendor, partner, or business referral.

What many people don’t realize is an interview is the ultimate marketing opportunity. That’s why it’s important to make it as sleek as your marketing.

The Three Do’s:

  1. Always be professional. Always.
  2. Be strategic and clear about the goals of the interview, position, and how it fits within company goals.
  3. Leave them wanting the job, regardless. If your first and second choices don’t work out and you were dismissive to the third — who definitely told people about it — you’ll be starting over.

The Three Don’ts:

  1. Scheduling and rescheduling issues may tell a candidate you aren’t committed to the process.
  2. Don’t dismiss the interview even if you know it isn’t a fit. You don’t have to spend the full amount of time, but give them a fair chance.
  3. Don’t get too personal. Ensuring a candidate is a good cultural fit is important but talking about religion, politics, family dynamics, etc. during an interview is always a bad idea.

Following these steps during the interview process will ensure the experience is mutually beneficial. But, your work isn’t done.

After the Interview

Recap with your team and follow-up with candidates quickly. In today’s market, while you’re working on presenting an offer, the candidate may be interviewing with other companies—your competitors.

If you’ve decided a candidate isn’t a good fit, thank them for their time and give them feedback, allowing them to move on.

After the Offer

Your candidate has accepted the offer. Great! Now the focus turns to the transition and on-boarding process. A new hire can still receive additional offers during this time, so make it count!

  • • Communicate about their start date and any background checks, drug screens or other pre-employment actions.
  • • Set their first day expectations: when to arrive, where to park, and what to expect when they get there.

Plan for Success

Have a plan so your company shines during the recruitment process.

  • • Know who is interviewing the candidate and how many interviews there will be.
  • • Request any assessments or applications early so it doesn’t delay things.
  • • Create an offer letter template that can be filled in, signed, and delivered so this doesn’t slow you down.
  • • Communicate with the candidate during the transition because other companies or their current employer may be trying to convince them to make  a different decision.

People who have a good customer experience tell 10 people. But people who have a negative experience will tell 100, and with social media that number can grow quickly. Treat the candidate across from you like your future colleague, business partner, vendor or competition — because they are.